Friday, June 10, 2011

The pony inside

A long time ago, at a stable far, far away, I dreamed of owning a Show Horse. Not a horse that you take to shows, but a Show Horse. I learned to ride at a barn primarily devoted to hunters in the 80's, so my vision of a show horse was tall, dark, and handsome. I wanted a tall, elegant, dark bay gelding. He would have a stall and blankets, because he would need to be kept inside at night and stay warm and clean. He would have an elegant canter that was easy to ride, and would always hit the distance. A Show Horse does not spook at hay bales and does not dump little girls into oxers because they may have peeked down just a little bit. A Show Horse makes people turn their heads when he walks by.

I wanted one.

Of course, like many little girls, I had a pony. A ten hand Welsh pony named Terry that drove me bonkers for years. I fell off that pony more often than any mount since. Combined. He would stop, he would spin, he would duck out. He'd drag me off to eat grass, ignoring the fifty pounds of irate little girl trying to get him to go inside so she could tack up. I chased that pony all over the pony pasture in the pouring rain, shaking a feed bucket and wishing for that beautiful Show Horse.

Of course he was shaping the rider I would be one day. At the time I didn't appreciate it, but a lot of my riding can be attributed back to the little white monster that was my partner on and off for many of those formative years. I didn't appreciate him until the end of our partnership, when I was finally good enough to earn some respect. I still wanted my Show Horse, but in the mean time, I had a pretty darn nice pony, and some nice ribbons to show for it.

Fast forward about twenty-five years.

I now own a Show Horse. Sure, she's a chestnut mare, not a bay gelding, but she qualifies. She lives in a stall and has lots of blankets. She has an elegant canter and does hit most of her distances, so long as I don't screw her up too much. She doesn't spook at hay bales and she doesn't dump me in oxers (yet). And yes, she turns heads when she walks by.

I see the little girls struggling with their ponies in their formative years watching me with my Show Horse and I see the cycle starting again. They want a Show Horse. Some of them want my Show Horse. Fiona has a little fan club of girls that think she's super neat. It's kind of fun to think that some of them are dreaming of a tall, elegant chestnut mare of their very own one day, the way I used to dream of a tall, elegant bay gelding. But there's a secret and I don't know if I should tell them.

They're all ponies. Every. Single. One of them.

"Fiona!" "Fiona, you're on my foot!" "Put it down!" "Get back here!" "Don't even think about it, mare." "Don't you drag me!" "It's a chipmunk, settle down!" "Whoa, damn it!" "The plastic bag will not eat you." "Give me back my whip!" "Those reins are expensive, don't chew them!" "Don't steal his hat!" "Put your hoof down, young lady." "Two strides, not one stride."

And, my favorite:

"What are you . . . spit that out! Don't eat that! Do you even know what it is? Drop it! Drop it . . . I don't even know what that was, and you better not have swallowed it."

How do you tell them that they will always, always be dragged over to the best patch of grass around? That in the end, they're all ponies? I went out hacking with a friend. We were both riding our Show Horses. We both spent a fair bit of the hack convincing our mares to not eat every little thing that went by. Both of our mares made us feel like we were back to riding Shetland ponies that will just ignore that little girl and help themselves to all of that free food.

Maybe that's how the cycle really goes. It starts and ends with the ponies. There's no perfect Show Horse out there, just well trained ponies that happen to be taller, and when you realize that, you can really appreciate your partner's inner pony.

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